Sonnets

Sonnets


"Death be not proud, though some have called thee"

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.–John Donne




2. On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait." —-John Milton





"On a Beautiful Landscape"

Beautiful landscape! I could look on thee
For hours,–unmindful of the storm and strife,
And mingled murmurs of tumultuous life.
Here, all is still as fair–the stream, the tree,
The wood, the sunshine on the bank: no tear
No thought of time’s swift wing, or closing night
Which comes to steal away the long sweet light,
No sighs of sad humanity are here.

Here is no tint of mortal change–the day
Beneath whose light the dog and peasant-boy
Gambol with look, and almost bark, of joy–
Still seems, though centuries have passed, to stay.
Then gaze again, that shadowed scenes may teach
Lessons of peace and love, beyond all speech. —William Lisle Bowles





"To Sleep"

Come balmy Sleep! tired Nature’s soft resort!
On these sad temples all thy poppies shed;
And bid gay dreams from Morpheus’ airy court,
Float in light vision round my aching head!
Secure of all thy blessings, partial Power!
On his hard bed the peasant throws him down;
And the poor sea boy, in the rudest hour,
Enjoys thee more than he who wears a crown.
Clasped in her faithful shepherd’s guardian arms,
Well may the village girl sweet slumbers prove,
And they, O gentle Sleep! still taste thy charms,
Who wake to labor, liberty and love.
But still thy opiate aid dost thou deny
To calm the anxious breast; to close the streaming eye. –Charlotte Smith




6. "Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room"

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found. —William Wordsworth


The world is too much with us


The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn. –William Wordsworth



. "Work without Hope"

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair–
The bees are stirring–birds are on the wing–
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

Yet, well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live. –Samuel Taylor Coleridge




8. "When I Have Fears"

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;–then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink. –John Keats





9. ."A Question by Shelley"

"Then what is life?" I cried. From his rent deeps
Of soul the poet cast that burning word;
And it should seem as though his prayer was heard,
For he died soon; and now his rest he keeps
Somewhere with the great spirit who never sleeps!
He had left us to murmur on awhile
And question still most fruitlessly this pile
Of natural shows, What life is? Why man weeps?
Why sins?–and whither when the awful veil
Floats on to him he sinks from earthly sight?
Some are, who never grow a whit more pale
For thinking on the general mystery,
Ground of all being; yet may I rather be
Of those who know and feel that it is night. –Alfred, Lord Tennyson


"Love and Death"

What time the mighty moon was gathering light,
Love paced the thymy plots of Paradise,
And all about him rolled his lustrous eyes;
When, turning round a cassia, full in view
Death, walking all alone beneath a yew
And talking to himself, first met his sight:
"You must begone," said death, "these walks are mine."
Love wept and spread his sheeny vans for flight;
Yet ere he parted said: "This hour is thine:
Thou art the shadow of life, and as the tree
Stands in the sun and shadows all beneath,
So in the light of great eternity
Life eminent creates the shade of death;
The shadow passeth when the tree shall fall,
But I shall reign for ever over all." –Alfred, Lord Tennyson




Why I Am a Liberal"

"Why?" Because all I haply can and do,
And that I am now, all I hope to be,–
Whence comes it save from fortune setting free
Body and soul the purpose to pursue,
God traced for both? If fetters not a few,
Of prejudice, convention, fall from me,
These shall I bid men–each in his degree
Also God-guided–bear, and gaily, too?
But little do or can the best of us:
That little is achieved through Liberty.
Who, then, dares hold, emancipated thus,
His fellow shall continue bound? Not I,
Who live, love, labor freely, nor discuss
A brother’s right to freedom. That is "Why."–Robert Browning



" To a Republican Friend, 1848"

God knows it, I am with you. If to prize
Those virtues, priz’d and practis’d by too few,
But priz’d, but lov’d, but eminent in you,
Man’s fundamental life: if to despise
The barren optimistic sophistries
Of comfortable moles, whom what they do
Teaches the limit of the just and true–
And for such doing have no need of eyes:
If sadness at teh long heart-wasting show
Wherein earth’s great ones are disquieted:
If thoughts, not idle, while before me flow
The armies of the homeless and unfed:–
If these are yours, if this is what you are,
Then am I yours, and what you feel, I share. –Matthew Arnold


Immortality

Foil’d by our fellow men, depress’d, outworn,
We leave the brutal world to take its way,
And, Patience! in another life, we say,
The world shall be thrust down, and we up-borne!

And will not, then the immortal armies scorn
The world’s poor routed leavings? or will they,
Who fail’d under the heat of this life’s day,
Support the fervours of the heavenly morn?

No, no! the energy of life may be
Kept on after the grave, but not begun!
And he who flagg’d not in the earthly strife,

From strength to strength advancing–only he,
His soul well-knit, and all his battles won,
Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life. –Matthew Arnold


"To My Books"

Silent companions of the lonely hour,
Friends, who can never alter or forsake,
Who for inconstant roving have no power,
And all neglect, perforce, must calmly take,–
Let me return to you; this turmoil ending
Which worldly cares have in my spirit wrought,
And, o’er your old familiar pages bending,
Refresh my mind with many a tranquil thought:
Till, haply meeting there, from time to time,
Fancies, the audible echo of my own,
‘Twill be like hearing in a foreign clime
My native language spoke in friendly tone,
And with a sort of welcome I shall dwell
On these, my unripe musings, told so well. –Caroline Norton




"Sonnets are full of love…"

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstare while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death. –Christina Rossetti




"Spring"

Nothing is so beautiful as spring–
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.–Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning. –Gerard Manley Hopkins